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A. Mansourov: Address to Summit 2022, Session IV

Address to Summit 2022 and Leadership Conference,
Seoul, Korea, August 11-15, 2022


What an introduction. He blew all my covers, so now I have to just go and hide underground. But good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

What a pleasure it is for me to speak before this distinguished audience. And I know we had an outstanding session in the morning, delicious lunch. Now I'm standing between you and relaxation sleep. So please feel free to take those five minutes of my talk to take a nap. I will not be upset, and I'll give you a couple of wake-up calls throughout my talk. But again, feel free to enjoy some relaxation time.

Let me start by saying that it’s a privilege for me to be part of that fact-finding mission. I've been going on this mission since 2015; it's almost like twelve missions. So one of my tasks would be to give you some historical observations comparing what we did in the past three days with what happened a year ago, five years ago, three years ago, some evolution of that.

But before I do that, let me say that it's also a profound honor for me to contribute to the noble mission of the Universal Peace Federation together with the senior military leaders like Gen. Walter Sharp and Adm. Harry Harris, our intelligence leaders like Ambassador Joseph DeTrani—and you saw, of course, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Before I share with you my observations, let me say how grateful I am to Mother Moon for the fact that, number one: When the pandemic closed the borders between our countries, she really opened them up again through virtual exchanges and enabled us to stay connected almost on a daily basis.

Number two: When racial conflicts, when social tensions and divisions, when gender biases divided us and deepened those tensions between us, it was Mother Moon who set the example with her diverse, inclusive and equitable policies. And so I'm grateful to her for that as well.

Finally: When people—at least in the United States, and I know in some other countries as well—lost jobs during the pandemic because of the economic difficulties, it was the Moon family that created jobs that helped people raise their living standards. So for all that, I really am grateful to Mother Moon and her leadership.

In the remaining time, let me share some observations about our fact-finder, some lessons learned. I was like a fly on the wall, basically observing what was going on, and I drew a number of conclusions.

Number one, a most important one: This time, for the first time in a number of years, we did not hear any concerns from the South Korean side about the US-ROK alliance. It came across as firmly convinced that our alliance is ironclad, it's strong. And this is different, because under the previous [South Korean] administration for a number of years, every time we would meet government officials, we would hear a lot of complaints, about difficulties, about some of the ideas expressed by our president with respect to the alliance. But not this time. This time again, it's consensus opinion that the alliance is rock solid.

Moreover, it's moving into a new state, new condition of being a global, comprehensive strategic alliance, multi-dimensional, which covers all aspects of our interaction, not just military, not just security, but also economic, informational alliance, cultural alliance, what have you. That's number one.

Number two: During this particular fact-finding mission, I detected a much more heightened concern about China in the ranks of the South Korean government. They're really worried about changing intentions in Beijing, and not only as a result of the Chinese actions over Taiwan, and we will have the honor of welcoming here a former vice president of Taiwan and she will tell you more about it.

But that was my observation, that in every single briefing we heard increasing concern about Chinese intentions, the growing belligerent nature of the Chinese intentions, and its possible impact not just on Taiwan, but on the situation in Ukraine, even on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, whether it might embolden North Korea as a Chinese proxy to do something not particularly rational across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Number three: We talked a lot about the nuclear threat from the North, the missile threat. This year alone, the North Koreans tested 31 times the various types of missiles, from tactical all the way to strategic ICBM missiles. And yet, in my opinion—and this may be a footnote opinion that will be put somewhere in the footnote that's contrary, and maybe not all members of the delegation would agree with that—I detected a reduced concern over the possibility of the next nuclear test by Pyongyang.  I mean, I came here with expectation that the test would be imminent. That's the headlines you read in the United States that the next nuclear test is imminent. And yet, from briefing to briefing, that level of urgency, in my opinion, appeared to decline to the point that at one briefing it was almost dismissed completely.

So we kind of passed that point. And that was interesting for me, because I didn't expect to see that.

Now, the next point: I was really pleased that the South Korean government strongly denied all accusations by the North Korean government that it was sold and used biological weapons to contaminate the North Korean population with the COVID-19 virus.  It's a ludicrous accusation. I was so glad that in different organizations, not only the government denied it but they produced evidence, they convinced us that's not really the case. If anything, the government in Pyongyang is trying to put together a rationale for potential use of biological weapons from their side.

As you know, they have a very robust biological weapons program. We don't talk about it as much as about the nuclear missile program, but that's the reality. Maybe they're creating a rationale here in excuse for what they call reprisal, which is very concerning. I'm glad that the South Korean government came out very strongly denying it and basically countering these accusations.

For the first time in many years we heard a very strong concern about the new non-traditional emerging threat from the North, and that is the cyber threat.  Obviously, the North Korean attempts to use cyber warfare and cyber means not only to hurt the interests of other countries in the international community but also to steal what we all work very hard to earn.  Cyber theft, which in some instances they use the proceeds from that to fund the WMD programs. That was worrisome. For the first time this issue was put on the table, and our attention was drawn to it.

Another issue which kind of surprised me, to be honest: We're here to talk about unification, to talk about the prospects for peace on the peninsula, and yet I heard almost no discussion or no expression of interest in the resumption of the North-South dialogue. Again, that's my observation. Maybe other members of the delegation will disagree. Maybe they heard it when I didn't, when I was looking the other way. But that's my conclusion, and to me that's very worrisome. We talked about sanctions, we talked about coercion, we talked about deterrence and what have you, the audacious plan which we're all going to hear on the Independence Day. But I did not hear any conversation about the resumption of the North-South dialogue.  For whatever reason: It's the pandemic; they locked down. It didn't work in the past. Now, it's not the right timing, whatever the reasons.

But to me it was very discouraging, because if you are not ready to engage in conversation, then all these hopes about possible unification at least they'll have to be postponed until both sides are ready to re-engage.

Finally, to conclude, just a couple of observations on our counterparts. I was really pleased to see a much more diverse team on the other side and every single ministry. It used to be an all-male lineup on the other side, and now we go into the room and we see many more beautiful ladies there, as smart as if not smarter than the men colleagues. That was really something that not only reflects the trend of times, but is long overdue. And finally the South Korean bureaucracy is reflecting where the society is moving in this direction.

And the last point: Again, it's an observation this time as opposed to the previous government here. In my opinion, we had much more transparency from the other side, because in the past we had to go an extra mile to learn what we wanted to learn. This time, not only the government folks were very forthcoming but even when we pushed the envelope and asked for a little bit more, expecting basically a no, in return they would say yes. I was like, “Wow, that's excellent.” That level of transparency reflects a new degree of mutual trust, which this administration here clearly has developed toward the counterparts in the United States.

So on that one, let me conclude. Thank you so much for your attention. And again, I look forward to the continuation of this forum. Thank you.



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